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Kelso, Woodland join state Test to Stay program

Signage at Kelso High School

COVID-19 signage sits outside Kelso High School in November 2020.

Kelso and Woodland students who are close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 at school, but do not have symptoms now will be able to stay in class under the state’s Test to Stay program.

The program allows unvaccinated students identified as close contacts at school to continue to learn in-person while monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, including at least two tests over a seven-day period.

Students exposed in the community or at home must still quarantine at home and follow the standard quarantine protocol. Students who are vaccinated and are symptom-free do not need to be tested, even if identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the health department.

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Superintendent Mary Beth Tack said the district is “prepared and excited to provide the Test to Stay program as an option.”

“Continuing with our multiple mitigating actions, we believe this is the next step for our students,” she said. “This program will help support consistent in-person instructional days for our kids, which are critical for student learning growth and overall well-being.”

Previously, students were required to quarantine at home for up to 14 days if they were unvaccinated and exposed at school.

At a recent Kelso School Board meeting, Director of Student Services Don Iverson said about 1,600 kids have been identified as close contacts, which equals about 11,500 days of absences from in-person school. About two dozen of those 1,600 close contacts ended up testing positive, which is about 1%.

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Now, students can attend class if they do not have symptoms, but must continue to wear a mask, get tested at least twice in the seven-day modified quarantine and cannot participate in any extracurricular activities at school, including sports, or other community activities during the modified quarantine period.

That includes group child care or youth development programs provided before and after school.

If the student does not test positive for COVID-19 during the modified quarantine, they can resume all activities after seven days, but still should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after their exposure, according to the state.

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If the student tests positive for COVID-19 at any time, they must isolate at home and follow the standard isolation guidance.

Woodland started the program, which requires state approval, Nov. 15. Kelso rolled out the program starting Monday.

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